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Memento : Issue 23
5 may 2003 memento adies in the Lodge L Speaking at Old Parliament House as part of a 1997 lecture series on Prime Ministers, former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam commented: A view is held, and sometimes expressed in the Whitlam household, that wives of Prime Ministers are more highly regarded and widely loved than Prime Ministers themselves, both during and after their time in office. This statement, albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek, highlights the unique position of prime ministerial wives. Compared with their famous spouses, however, relatively little is known about their achievements. Our Australia's Prime Ministers website and research guides on prime ministers shed some light on the public role of the wives of our nation's leaders. Enid Lyons, wife of Australia's tenth prime minister, Joseph Lyons, was the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives. She was publicly involved in politics from the outset, even spending her honeymoon at a Premiers Conference. She was also a staunch advocate of women's rights. After campaigning actively on behalf of her husband for many years, Enid Lyons entered federal politics herself in 1943, four years after his death. All the while she managed the large and scattered Lyons family and battled periods of ill health. At the birth of her first child she suffered a broken pelvis, which was not diagnosed until after the birth of her twelfth, and last, child. Margaret Whitlam also gained public attention as an outspoken prime ministerial wife. Recently named a 'National Living Treasure', she has been a champion swimmer, social worker, magazine columnist, and passionate advocate for women's rights and social causes. She has also played host to hundreds of official visitors including Queen Elizabeth II and Germaine Greer. Margaret Whitlam has continued her public career for more than 25 years since the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975, and was awarded the Order of Australia in 1983. For more fascinating facts about these and other prime ministerial wives, visit the Australia's Prime Ministers website at primeministers.naa.gov.au. You can also explore our series of research guides on prime ministers and their wives. The second one, Joseph Lyons: Guide to Archives of Australia's Prime Ministers by Susan Marsden, lists records relating to both Joseph and Enid Lyons. Also available is Our First Six, a guide to records on Australia's first six prime ministers and their wives, written by Susan Marsden and Roslyn Russell. The guides cost $19.95 and can be purchased online through our website, by phoning (02) 6212 3609, emailing email@example.com, or visiting one of our offices. They can also be viewed online on our website at www.naa.gov.au. Margaret Whitlam with Diana Waite (left) of WA and Juliet Mitchell (right) of UK at the Women and Politics conference, Canberra, 1975. NAA: 6180, 5/9/75/16 Enid Lyons. NAA: SP1011, 3062